Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Tag: Julia Cameron Quotes

There Is No Final Word – We Must Continually Process & Re-evaluate

Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better
When They Are Open

In the arts communities, Process is valued over Product. In other words, a working, living, flexible state of creating is favored over something that was only considered once, made, and never reconsidered.

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A Closed Mind is a Product. It is a withering vessel that allows precious little in or out. It is comprised of boxes that are only filled once and afterwards are locked and abandoned.

Many things cause people to close their minds. I believe that fear is one of the factors. People who are afraid of the unknown–who are afraid of change–have a tendency to restrict the amount of data that they process.

Hurriedness is another reason that people close their minds. We live in an age of multi-tasking. The people who do the most, multi-task to do so. Multi-taskers are prone to review a matter once, make a decision, shut that door, and move on. While that might be a quick way to get things done, I feel sure that multi-taskers make many mistakes. I often question my own decisions that I made in haste, and upon further contemplation, I often discover that my hasty decisions require a second thought.

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A more effective practice requires continued thinking on a matter and continual reflection. An open-minded person would revisit one’s plan time and again, and he would check and balance his behavior. Anything less is like working with blinders on. It is a fast trip to denial, where a person attempts to function with partial information. I have written several posts about denial, and I believe that anger is a cause of denial–and likewise, a reason for closing one’s mind.

When we get mad, we have a tendency to stop listening, and when we stop listening, we lose empathy, and we end our thought processes. The person in denial has the tendency to slam the door on any further consideration. Then, he throws away the key, and he never looks back again.

Healthy people can become frustrated and angry. In her book the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says that Anger can actually be a good and helpful thing. The key is that of not making it the final response. Anger should lead us to another, healthier behavior.

“Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 62.

. . .

“Anger is the firestorm that signals the death of our old life . Anger is the fuel that propels us into our new one. Anger is a tool, not a master. Anger is meant to be tapped into and drawn upon. Used properly anger is use-full.

“Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not. Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. …It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us that it is time to act in our own best interests.

“Anger is not the action itself. It is the action’s invitation.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 62-63.

Unhealthy people elect to remain stuck in anger. If a person who is stuck in anger is prone to denial, he may no longer realize that he has become stuck. Especially when anger and failed relationships are in play, I believe second or third or fifth or tenth thoughts are worthwhile. Before we throw people away, we should examine our behaviors and scrutinize them. Forgiveness may be in order. Our states of denial may be preventing us from recognizing our needs for forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ― Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections

For whatever reason, a closed mind is a sad or even a dangerous thing.

Minds Are Like Parachutes. They Work Better When They Are Open!

In life and in art, process is better than product. If there is a final word, it is that there is NO final word. We never move beyond our needs to process and re-evaluate.

©Jacki Kellum May 13, 2017

Final

Taking Back My Life One Bite at a Time

I took this photograph of my garden during July of 2015, I had worked very hard in my garden that entire summer, and the results were magnificent. But last summer, I hardly worked at all in my garden. Poke plants dotted my lawn everywhere that I looked, and my hydrangeas withered from lack of watering. My perennials didn’t bother to lift their heads above the soil last year, and my garden was a Waste Land. Every time that I looked outside, I became part of my own natural wasteland.

Last summer, I had launched a writing group, and I was spending every available second writing and or reading about writing. I was preparing to offer a memoir writing class online, and I denied myself of the inspiration that my gardening had always been before. Even at the time, I knew that I was denying myself something that my spirit needed and that I was being excessive about something else instead.

Last summer, I went to a mindfulness workshop, and my first response to some question that was asked was that I was neglecting my garden and in doing so, I felt that I was neglecting myself. Others tried to console me by saying that my spirit simply needed the writing more, but I knew that wasn’t the case. In reality, I have a very bad habit of becoming obsessive compulsive about one thing at a time and in doing so, I forsake several other areas entirely. My life woefully needs balance.

Even though I was not working in my garden last year, I allowed my blogs’ About pages to continue to say that “I am an avid gardener.” I used that precise phrase, and today, when I saw that the blogging prompt for the day was “avid,” I chuckled and thought to myself about Julia Cameron’s words about synchronicity in her book the Artist’s Way.

  • A woman admits to a buried dream of acting. At dinner the next night, she sits beside a man who teaches beginning actors.

  • A woman is thinking about going back to school and opens her mail to find a letter requesting her application from the very school she was thinking about going to. Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 63

Cameron lists several examples of times that the universe seems to reach toward people who are open to the arms of its reaching. This summer, I have already begun working in my garden again, and I have already been dealing with the ways that my lack of balance is not paying off for me. Today, the writing prompt is “avid” –something that I used to be about my garden, and today, I feel the need to talk about my own personal disconnect.

Twenty-five years ago,  someone gave me a copy of the book the Artist’s Way. That someone recognized that I was a blocked creative, and she felt that the book would help me. As soon as I read the book, I recognized myself and the mistakes that I was making in terms of my own creative growth and production, and for a couple of days, I wrote morning pages–twenty-five years ago, and then, I simply quit. Too much time. Good idea but too much time. Here I am–twenty-five years later, and I am still dealing with many of the issues that I should have dealt with a quarter of a century ago.

I lead a writer’s group, and for months, I have heard various excuses that the people in my group make for not moving forward with their writing. The words of Cameron’s book have stuck with me through the years, and I realized that the people in my group would benefit from at least reading it. A few weeks ago, we began working through the chapters of Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, and I recognize that one of the reasons that I chose this book for the class is that I, too, need to actually “work” through  Cameron’s program. Yet, for two weeks, I did not write the morning pages. I wrote other things, and I blogged, but for some reason, I am resisting my need to settle down, to write the morning pages, and to allow myself to begin to attack the gargantuan task of moving through some of the issues that prevent me from moving forward.

I have always been an intense person, and I have always been avid about something or another. The problem is that I often neglect something else to be obsessive about my avid interest of the day. I move through my life like a line of army tanks. Typically speaking,  I charge forward. I attack, and I conquer one thing at a time. But I also hurry, and when a task seems that it will take too long, I move to a new front.

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Last night, I decided that I would begin this day by slowing down and by actually beginning to master the gargantuan task of becoming more balanced and more efficient in all areas of my life. I acknowledge that this will not be a quick fix, but I have wasted twenty-five years by my failure to have done this a quarter of a century ago when I initially read Cameron’s the Artist’s Way. This morning, I wrote morning pages, and because it is a Cameron task on page 58, I listed “ten tiny changes” that I need to make in my life [my list is currently at #22]. I have vowed to slow down and to simply do what I need to do–to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

“No high jumping, please!… Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.

“Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves. Creative recovery is like marathon training. We want to log ten slow miles for every one fast mile. This can go against the ego’s grain. We want to be great–immediately great–but that is not how recovery works. It is an awkward, tentative, even embarrassing process. There will be many times when we won’t look good–to ourselves or anyone else. We need to stop demanding that we do. …

” ‘But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/write a play?’

“Yes. . . the same age you will if you don’t.

“So Le’ts start.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 29-30.

©Jacki Kellum April 23, 2017.
Avid

Definition of An Artist – Dare to Be an Artist!

I have always been the arty type. I have always been “driven by passion, seized by obsession, delighted by creation, enthralled with expression, entranced by vision, diverted by daydreams, filled with emotion, fueled by compulsion, consumed with beauty, and blindsided by inspiration.” However, I have also been pulled by the non-arty desire to be popular, to be a cheerleader, and to be normal or “the same.”

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Jacki Kellum

Smiling, Joking, Dancing, Free
That’s the Social Side of Me.

Tossing kisses from my car,
Scared, Confused Alone We Are.

If you look, you will see
The Scared, Confused and Social Three.

Copyright Jacki Kellum December 17, 2015

I became a closet creative, and I lived two lives. Outwardly, I was what I felt that everyone else wanted me to be and on the inside, I was someone else–I was different–an outlier. Here is how that worked:

On one hand, there was the social Jacki–the cheerleader, Miss Personality, and Campus Favorite. On the other hand, there was the REAL me–the person whose heart followed the whippoorwill’s call deep into the caverns of the forested night. When I was a child, I was the little camper who sat, staring into the campfire, feeling its heat warming my body and sensing its flames as they danced across my eyes. I would watch the flickering until it hypnotized me and lured me into the world that was completely removed from that of anyone else around me.

When I was a child, I would listen to the wind rustling through the leaves at night, and I would watch the leaves’ dark shadows gracefully tiptoeing across my window pane. I was the type of child who would listen to the rain pattering on the roof and be moved by its rhythmic tapping. When I was a child, I would stare at the stars, simply to enjoy the patterns of their light.

In looking back, I cannot be sure that the other kids around me weren’t doing the same things that I was doing and thinking the same things that I was thinking, but I don’t believe that they were. I always felt that I was different.

Even as a child, I felt that I was different. I couldn’t help myself, but in an effort to fit in, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to seem as though I wasn’t different at all. In Julia Cameron’s book the Artist’s Way, she said that we have logical and linear behaviors embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior that makes us believe that we need to be the same.

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What… is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

While our logical tendencies seem to be safe, they are an enemy to creativity, and logic is the haven for the Censor. The Censor wants to scare us into editing the very life out of everything that we would otherwise like to create.

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Blind Leading the Blind, Painted in 1568

Following the crowd can get us into all kinds of trouble.  I am reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting The Blind Leading the Blind. Consider the very real possibility that the seemingly safe crowd is inching toward the edge of a cliff en masse and that each person is about to fall to his own demise. Following the crowd is not always as safe as it seems to be.

Most often, “the crowd” is in a seemingly safe pattern of circling around a merry-go-round that, while it may seem colorful and pretty, it is going nowhere new. In other words, the crowd is doing the same thing over and over again. The crowd is not forging new paths. It is not creating.

Now, consider the crowd to be a line of burned out light bulbs. Will you, simply to be the same, turn your light off, too?

I hope not. Dare to let your light shine. Dare to be different. Dare to be an outlier.

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Deep Within the Pool, I See
by Jacki Kellum

Deep within the pool I see,
An outline view of me.

I smile.  The water thinks me glad.
I frown. It thinks me sad.
The water has no way to know
The kind of day I’ve had.

The water has no brain to think.
It has no heart to feel
It only views my outer shell.
It looks with eyes of steel.

How very like the water are
The people passing by.
They glance at me, They never see,
They never hear me cry.

Drop a pebble in the pool.
Watch the water spin.
Best to watch the water crack
Than love the shell within.

© Jacki Kellum December 7, 2015

Dare to be an artist.

©Jacki Kellum April 7, 2917

Outlier

The Artist’s Way Versus the Queens of Denial

Today was the end of the first full week after my Writers Group had begun “Working?” Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way Program and I was a little stunned by the outrage of the voices as we listed the reasons that the Artist’s Way would not work for us.

The first and foremost tenet of the Artist’s Way is that it is essential that EVERYONE write 3 pages of morning dribble every morning. We should get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and write, whether we feel like doing it or not, and we should not expect anything great to come out of the writing that we do. We should simply do it, and what’s more–we should commit to doing it. Here are some of the excuses that I heard from my group:

  1. I am commitment phobic – I refuse to commit to anything.
  2. I am too busy. I don’t have 30 minutes to toss at something that I don’t want to do.
  3. I am not creative. Some people simply aren’t creative, and I am one of them. Again, this is a waste of my time.
  4. I have a better plan.

Although I wholeheartedly agree with almost every word of Cameron’s book, I found myself saying, “Well, when I write, I need a topic–I can’t, won’t, just free-write. I need a topic. I heard myself saying that and Hey! I am teaching this course. Shortly after I got home, I thought that  ALL of US Are QUEENS of DENIAL.

I have decided to step back and reconsider my own behavior, and I challenge others to join me:

  1. I am not smarter than Julia Cameron.
  2. I did not write and publish trillions of break-out books that have improved the creativities of thousands of people.
  3. I am not operating at the level of production and success that I want.
  4. Yes, I am worth 30 minutes of dribble drabble writing each day.
  5. Yes, I WILL commit to working the Artist’s Way Program EXACTLY the way that Julia Cameron prescribes it.
  6. Yes, I will get out of my own way and try the Artist’s Way.

From the very beginning, Julia Cameron warns us that we will probably go through a period of clinging to old behaviors–simply because they feel safe to us. On one hand,

“Many of us wish we were more creative, but….Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves….We hunger for what might be called creative living–an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends….” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

BUT we still resist making the changes that are required to become as creative and as fulfilled as we might be.

“Working with this process, I see a certain amount of defiance and giddiness in the first few weeks. This entry stage is followed closely by explosive anger in the course’s midsection. The anger is followed by grief, then alternating waves of resistance and hope.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 5.

Excuses that we might make for not committing to creative change [Examples of our own denials}

  1. It’s too late.
  2. When I make enough money in my real job, I’ll work on my creativity.
  3. My thinking that I could be more creative is only my ego.
  4. My dreams don’t matter. I need to be more practical and more sensible.
  5. My family and friends will think that I am silly or even crazy for trying to be more artistic.
  6. Creativity is a luxury–one that I cannot afford.

[This list is paraphrased from Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7].

Julia Cameron says that we have logical and linear behavior embedded within us. She says that this logical behavior is part of our survival instinct, and she says that the part of ourselves that tries to discourage us from creating is part of this logical behavior. Cameron says that our tendencies to mercilessly self-edit and censor ourselves are linked to this logical behavior.

“As blocked artists, we tend to criticize ourselves mercilessly. Even if we look like functioning artists to the world, we feel we never do enough and what we do isn’t right. We are victims of our own internalized perfectionist, a nasty internal and eternal critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The Censor says wonderful things like: You call that writing? What a joke. . . .

“…always remember that our censor’s opinion doesn’t count.

. . .

“Think of your Censor as a cartoon serpent, slithering around your creative Eden, hissing vile things to keep you off guard. ” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 11.

When we convince ourselves that we must be in the MOOD to paint or to write, we are buying into denial behavior.

“Your mood doesn’t matter. …We have this idea that we have to be in the mood to write. We don’t.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

Cameron says that free writing every morning trains the Censor to stand back, and it teaches us that we don’t have to be in the mood to write.

“I didn’t have to be in the mood. I didn’t have to take my emotional temperature to see if inspiration was pending. I simply wrote. No negotiations. Good, bad?? None of my business. I wasn’t doing it. By resigning myself as the self-conscious author, I wrote freely.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. xiv-xv, 1992 Edition.

Some of us ARE writing and creating, and we tell ourselves that we don’t need the morning pages to spring us into action. Yet, perhaps we too are in Denial.

Perhaps our denial wears a different face. Perhaps we are writing and painting but we are not digging deeply enough when we write or paint. Perhaps we are writing or painting what is safe and familiar and we are not taking the necessary chances to take our work to the next level of self-examination. I believe that Cameron is saying that by working her program and by writing the morning pages, we can find ways to dig deeper–into the realm of greater truth and more originality.

Logic brain is our brain of choice in the Western Hemisphere. It is the categorical brain. It thinks in a neat, linear fashion. As a rule, logic brain perceives the world according to known categories. …

“Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous.  … Logic brain is the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.

“Logic brain is our Censor….Faced with an original sentence, phrase, paint squiggle, it says, ‘What the hell is that?

. . .

“Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

“The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings.” Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, pgs. 12-13.

Some of us who have written and painted for quite some time have developed ways of writing and painting that SEEM to be very creative, very deep, very pretty, very elusive, and very truthful, but we need to examine ourselves carefully to be sure that we haven’t created code art that we hide behind. We need to be sure that some of our own pretty little devices have not evolved into creative trickery. Any time that we reach for some familiar tool or stylistic jargon without considering whether it is truth or whether it is a mere habit, we run the risk of writing and painting trickery and not truth. I believe that the morning pages can ferret out some of that behavior.

Some of us seasoned artists and writers may think that we are feeling bored when we are writing morning pages, but I remind myself and others of the great truth: Don’t Believe Everything that You Think.

Julia Cameron tells us that this Boredom with the Morning Pages is probably masked fear.
“Boredom is just What’s the use in disguise. And “What’s the use?” is fear, and fear means you are secretly in despair.”  Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 12.

How do we know if we have any level of blocked creativity?

Julia Cameron’s answer to this question definitely hit home with me:

Jealousy is an excellent clue. Are there artists whom you resent? Do you tell yourself, ‘I could do that, if only…..? Cameron, Julia. the Artist’s Way, p. 7.

OUCH!!!!! The truth does hurt!

All in all, I do believe that most of us are guilty of hiding in rabbit holes. Our rabbit holes may be the simple excuse that we don’t write because we aren’t in the mood or it might be a stylistic habit that camouflages our true feelings. In my opinion, most of us need to repeatedly commit ourselves to the type of self-examination and creativity renewal that Julia Cameron’s program can foster. But before we will get anywhere at all with the work of the Artist’s Way, we need to dare to shine the light on all of the ways that we are lurking within our own systems of Denial.

©Jacki Kellum April 6, 2016

Denial

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